Outdoor: Did you hear?...

U.S. dominates ispo BrandNew awards, check safety of gear with Petzl program, REI gift registry hits 6,000 in eight weeks, groups meet to discuss Western Appalachian Alternative trail, plus much more....
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>> GERMANY -- The United States made a strong showing at the ispo BrandNew awards -- co-sponsored by DuPont, Invista and DuPont SA -- walking away with three awards, including overall winner, in the contest done in conjunction with the Munich, Germany-based sporting goods trade show, ispo. For the first time in the award's 10-year history, 29 percent of the entries came from the United States, with 125 entries from 19 countries total. A forum for new companies judged by a jury of sports business professionals on design, marketing and innovation, the seven winners receive all-expense paid booths and other benefits at ispo summer, July 4-6, in Munich -- a $125,000 value. Honolulu-based Clear Blue Hawaii (www.clearbluehawaii.com) claimed the Lycra Overall Award with its clear-colored, folding Napali kayak; Flybar U.S.A. (www.flybar.com), based in Ellenville, N.Y., won the Delrin Hardware category with the Flybar power pogo stick with a built-in spring for balancing and bouncing; and Surfsling U.S.A. (www.surfsling.com), based in Costa Mesa, Calif., took the Teflon Hardware Accessories Award for its multi-use beach towel. Other category winners were: Germany's ZEHA for its clodhoppers (Cordura Style Award); Australia's Kite Chicks for kitesurfing products designed for women (Coolmax Sportswear Award); Austria's Losungsmittel for the Urban Tool ergonomic shoulder holster for endurance athletes to carry valuables (Tactel Sportswear Accessories Award); Australia's Force Industries for the RAPCAP Torsion Cap Technology bodyboards (Hytrel Boarder Award); and Finland's FRWD Technologies for the Sports Performance Recorder, a GPS-based recorder for training data (Thermolite Accessories Award). In addition to the winners, 33 additional finalists will display at ispo for the first time and will be offered the chance to be a part of the BrandNew exhibition. For more details and a list of finalists go to www.ispo-brandnew.com.

>> On the heels of the BrandNew award, Napali kayak has to be practically giddy because it also garnered a mention in the Reader's Digest America's 100 Best list as the best kayak for the company's 26-pound transparent and collapsible boat. Also earning a place on the list that over 100 million subscribers will see were Clif Bar for "Best Mom and Pop Biz," Black Diamond's Gemini headlamp for "Best Flashlight," and M.J. Soffe Dri-release shirt as "Best T-shirt." To see the entire list, go to www.rd.com.

>> The Outdoor Industry Women's Coalition (OIWC) is hosting the association's first East Coast meeting on May 19 at 5:30 p.m. at Burton Snowboards in Burlington, Vt. Over wine and cheese, the goal is to determine if there is sufficient interest to schedule more networking opportunities, slide shows, potlucks or outdoor activities. For more information, contact Berne Broudy at berne@authenticoutdoors.com or Jill Bongiolatti at jillb@burton.com.

>> Petzl has launched a very cool new feature on its website at www.petzl.com -- dedicated to helping consumers determine the safety and quality of aging climbing equipment. Also available on CD-ROM, the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) Inspection uses video sequences and still photos that guide users through a comprehensive evaluation of the quality and safety of their gear. Examples are provided with detailed images and indications of safety, helping the consumer to determine whether the equipment is safe based on a valuation scale of G (Good), TM (To Be Monitored), and R or TR (Reject). SNEWS® ran through several of the tests online and found them to be very easy to utilize, and extremely clear. We were, of course, chagrined to realize a favorite climbing harness and a piece of old hardware (still in use) garnered rejection ratings. Time for new gear, for safety naturally. The PPE inspection site also includes a checklist for recording dates of purchase and first use, condition of gear, usage patterns and additional comments. Retailers should absolutely point their consumers to this site!

>> Mark your Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show calendar to save time to attend the Conservation Alliance membership meeting on August 13, at 8 a.m. in the Marriott, Salon F. Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation and national coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970, will be the guest speaker. Hayes' distinguished career in the environmental field has earned him many honors. Time Magazine selected him as one of its "Heroes for the Planet," and the National Audubon Society included him on its list of 100 Environmental Heroes of the 20th century. The meeting also marks the Conservation Alliance's 15th anniversary, and Alliance President Casey Sheahan told us it will review and celebrate 15 years of successful support of environmental organizations working to protect threatened wild rivers, deserts, forests and the wildlife that call these places home.

>> An integrated online, phone and store gift registry launched this spring by REI generated 6,000 gift lists nationally in eight weeks, the company just announced. While the gift registry can be used for any event, the majority of the new lists are for upcoming weddings of outdoor-oriented couples. To learn more about couples outdoors, REI commissioned a survey in February. Findings highlights include: 77 percent of women and 73 percent of men say they enjoy socializing with friends when recreating in the outdoors; 69 percent of women and 59 percent of men say they like to spend time with "my significant other" when participating in outdoor activities; and 51 percent of women and 47 percent of men say outdoor activities are a great way to build romantic relationships. The nationwide telephone survey was conducted by Western WATS Market Research on behalf of REI and included 832 American adults, 18 years of age or older, including 500 women, who participated in outdoor activities at least four times in the last year. The margin of error is +/-3.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

>> Climb High, the U.S. distributor of Mammut, has announced that Jon Shea of Willamette University in Salem, Ore., is the winner of the second annual Mammut Outdoor Appreciation Scholarship award. Shea will receive full tuition, round-trip airfare, and full outfitting of alpine clothing awarded by Mammut for the Outward Bound classic course of his choice. Shea was chosen based upon his dedication to multiple outdoor pursuits, demonstrated leadership and commitment to conservation. Shea heads up Willamette's student outdoor program, while pursuing a degree in environmental science. Mammut and Outward Bound created the Outdoor Appreciation Scholarship Award with the intent of fostering outdoor leadership skills in young adults demonstrating a promising passion for the outdoors. If you or anyone you know is interested in applying for the 2005 award, entries are accepted online at www.climbhigh.com from Nov. 1, 2004, to April 15, 2005.

>> Two ski companies sent dueling releases announcing name sponsorships for the upcoming season. Fischer announced that U.S. Ski Team member Tom Rothrock has signed with Fischer skis and bindings. Rothrock is ranked second on the U.S. Slalom Team and is currently ranked 23rd in the world in slalom. The news of Rothrock's signing came at the same time that Atomic was announcing the signing of former Fischer ski athlete Bode Miller (Miller was sponored by Rossignol last year). Miller started with Fischer when he was the 31st ranked skier in the world in GS. Now, however, Fischer is left to help another athlete grow, while Atomic nabs instant visibility with a proven athlete in Miller. Atomic's sponsorship agreement with Miller ensures that Miller will be skiing on Atomic skis, boots and bindings through the Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, in 2006.

>> During the weekend of April 24-25, the leadership of the Southeastern Foot Trails Coalition -- made up of representatives from 25 different hiking organizations, American Hiking Society staff and National Park Service Staff -- gathered at DeSoto State Park in Fort Payne, Ala. The focus of this gathering was the creation of a 5,000-mile interconnected network of hiking trails in the southeast. The meeting was opened with a three-hour discussion about the Western Appalachian Alternative (WAA). The WAA is a concept for a long distance hiking trail that will parallel the Appalachian Trail to the west. The trail will initially be created by linking together the Georgia Pinhoti Trail, the Cumberland Trail (Tenn.), and the Pine Mountain Trail (Ky.). The coalition discussed ways to also push this trail system further north to Pennsylvania, New York and beyond. A task force was created, and an effort is now underway to identify stakeholders in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Additional WAA task force meetings will take place later this year. Additionally, five gaps in the trail system were identified as high priority areas. This includes a gap between the Florida National Scenic Trail and the Alabama Pinhoti Trail, and the eastern section of the Mountains to Sea Trail (N.C.). The Southeastern Foot Trails Coalition will be acting cooperatively to fill these gaps to improve recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. The third Southeastern Foot Trails Conference will take place April 28-May 1, 2005, at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina. Southeastern Foot Trails Coalition Coordinator Jeffrey Hunter is actively seeking sponsors for the conference. For more information, Hunter can be reached at 423-266-2507 or jhunter@AmericanHiking.org.

>> The SnowSports Industries America (SIA) practically new website -- www.snowlinkjr.com -- pulled in over 20 million visitors since its launch just five months ago. Developed to educate and entertain the 14-under age group (dubbed Gen Y), Snowlinkjr.com has also grabbed the attention of those who judge website content professionally. Snowlinkjr.com earned a Gold Addy from the Denver Advertising Federation in the interactive media consumer website division and the site's interactive game for kids, IceBox Maniacs, won gold in the animation of special effects category. Both were also recognized with silver awards at the district level. In addition, the website was honored with a bronze in the website, general excellence category from the Society of National Association of Publications (SNAP).

>> Johnson Outdoors (Nasdaq: JOUT) has acquired Techsonic Industries Inc., a manufacturer of underwater sonar and video viewing, and GPS technologies, from Teleflex Inc. (NYSE: TFX) for a reported $28 million. The acquisition adds the Humminbird brand to Johnson Outdoors' marine electronics group portfolio, which includes trolling motors and accessories sold under the Minn Kota name. With the addition of Humminbird, Johnson Outdoors' marine electronics group sales are expected to surpass $100 million across marketplace categories with combined estimated sales of more than $300 million annually.

>> Outdoor Research has signed Jess Roskelley as the newest member of the company's small but growing sponsored athlete program. If the last name seems familiar, it should as Jess is the son of renowned mountaineer John Roskelley and was the youngest American to summit Everest last year.

>> The outdoor division of Tecnica USA has entered into a sponsorship agreement with John Varco, who joins noted world-class alpine style climbers Carlos Buhler and Sue Nott on Tecnica's team of sponsored athletes. Kevin Dixon told us that the team will work closely with Tecnica's research and development design teams on the creation of outdoor footwear.

>> Mark Houseman has joined Thule as the company's southeastern sales manager. In the newly created position, Houseman will be responsible for managing Thule's southeast sales force, including IBD, outdoor/ski, and automotive sales representatives. Houseman was most recently the western sales manager for Giant Bicycles. Prior to working at Giant, Houseman worked for six years at Bicycle Garage of Indianapolis, Ind., where he served as the corporate purchasing manager.

>> Smith Optics has hired Brian Cotsonas as the company's East Coast regional sales manager. As a result of restructuring its sales department, Smith will also appoint central and western regional sales managers. Cotsonas most recently worked as the East Coast sales manager for Eyeking/Hobie Polarized Sunglasses. He also held a position as the national sales director for Gargoyles, Anarchy and Angel Eyewear overseeing 20 reps and two regional sales managers. Linda Rodney, who has worked at Smith for several years overseeing national sales, will become the central regional sales manager and will handle a majority of Smith's national accounts. A West Coast regional sales manager will be announced soon. All three sales managers will report to Blair Clark.

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